These were the remarks by His Excellency, Hon. William Samoei Ruto, PHD C.G.H., President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Forces during the International Day for Minority Rights on Monday 18th December 2023 at Bomas of kenya, Nairobi.
The leadership and Members of our ethnic minorities and marginalized communities, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen; Good morning,
On 18 December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities to protect and promote minority rights. This day has been marked internationally for the last 30 years, yet it is only today that Kenya is joining the community of nations to officially mark this significant day.
It therefore gives me much joy and delight to join you on this inaugural and auspicious celebrations of the International Minority Rights Day. I extend my high regards to all of us who have joined in from the length and breadth of our great country, and commend you for your commitment to the cause of minorities and marginalized communities.
I am also happy to have toured the various exhibitions showcasing the rich and diverse cultural heritage of our minority and marginalized communities. I’ve had the unique opportunity to rehash the reasons behind our national clarion call of shared prosperity and why our collective consciousness underscores the concept of unity in diversity as a key pillar of our national unity. It is indeed befitting that this year’s theme is “Recognizing, Empowering and Protecting the Rights of Minorities and the Marginalized.”
This theme will keep us talking about and addressing the challenges, aspirations and the realities around our ethnic minorities and marginalized communities and prepare us for the journey that we must walk in order to achieve these aspirations.
The Preamble to our Constitution espouses our pride in our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity and recognizes the aspiration of all Kenyans for a Government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law. These values must extend to ethnic minorities and marginalized Communities, no less.
This event resonates well with the principles enshrined in our Constitution that express Kenya’s commitment to fostering inclusivity, non-discrimination and the protection of minority rights and the rights of those who’ve previously been systemically marginalized.
Article 56 of our Constitution is particularly instructive on the steps, including affirmative action measures that the State ought to take so as to ensure that minorities and marginalized groups participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life; are provided special opportunities in educational and economic fields; are provided special opportunities for access to employment; develop their cultural values, languages and practices; and have reasonable access to water, health services and infrastructure.
I am also pleased to note that today’s celebrations come just five days after our Jamhuri Day when celebrated our resolve to liberate our nation from all forms of injustice. It cannot be that sixty years after independence, some communities in Kenya are yet to fully enjoy the fruits of independence, let alone the feeling of recognition and inclusion. This, under my Administration, will change.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen…
I am a firm believer in the promise of our Constitution. In me, you the leadership and members of the ethnic minorities and marginalized communities, have a friend and a partner in your quest for space and recognition. During my tenure as Deputy President, I not only set up a technical department for Minority and Marginalized Communities’ Affairs, but I also championed the appointment several of your members in my office. I also championed Affirmative Action measures in the public service and elsewhere that saw numerous of your members secure employment.
I have continued this trend as President by appointing more to high-ranking positions in my Administration.
In the run-up to the 2022 General Elections, the Kenya Kwanza team pledged to address the issues that have plagued the Minorities and Marginalized Communities in a comprehensive manner. We committed to set up a team that will conclusively look into these issues and recommend the best way of addressing these concerns.
In order to advance the welfare of ethnic minorities and marginalized peoples in a more institutionalized manner, I am happy to report that under Executive Order Number 2 of 2023, I have since established the Minorities and Marginalized Affairs Unit under the Presidency which I shall be unveiling today. I established that unit to spearhead my office’s agenda of recognizing, promoting and protecting the rights of ethnic minorities and marginalized communities.
In recognizing the critical importance of an inclusive Government that reflects the diversity of our nation, my Administration seeks to deliberately involve representatives from minority and marginalized communities in the decision-making processes. Whereas we shall front policies that are responsive the needs and aspirations of all citizens, special attention will be paid to those policies that advance the cause of these special interest groups
Ladies and gentlemen…
It is difficult to discuss Minority and Marginalized rights without broaching the subject that is ‘Land and Land Rights’. Over the years, Minority and Marginalized Communities have clamored for land and land rights. They are some of the most affected by what our Constitution terms present and historical land injustices. Many cases have ended up in both local and international courts. I direct the Ministry of Lands to work closely with the National Land Commission to comprehensively address these concerns as guided by Articles 60, 63 and 67 of the Constitution.
In the same breath, if there’s any particular group of people that often bear the brunt of the adverse effects of the Climate Change phenomenon, it is this Special Interest Group. By virtue of their distinct geographical placement, these communities have, for years now, been the faces of drought and floods. As a result, many in these communities remain mired in hunger, disease and the unending cycle of poverty. It is about time that we turn the tide and I am happy to report that Kenya is taking the lead, especially in Africa in confronting this Climate Change menace.
To mitigate the effects of Climate Change, exemplified by the ongoing torrents of rain pounding different parts of the country, more-so areas inhabited by the minority and marginalized communities, my Administration is working with County Governments to ensure we lessen the suffering of our people.
Many a times, the problems facing minority and marginalized Communities are compounded by rampant insecurity characterized by incessant cattle rustling and runaway banditry. Earlier this year, we served notice on these domestic terrorists, warning them that it’s about time they ditched their evil and barbaric ways. I swore to protect the life and livelihood of every Kenyan and I have no intention of breaking that vow.
As we speak today, the guns in the North Rift and other banditry prone areas of our nation have largely been silenced. I urge our security forces not to relent in this pursuit of peace and tranquility in all parts of our country. We are also working round the clock to ensure that plans by foreign terrorists that threaten citizens in our frontier counties are thwarted and foiled. Our intelligence service remains alert and laser focused at all time. Not even inch of Kenya shall be surrendered to criminal elements.
In The Plan, we pledged to strengthen Devolution by completing the transfer of all functions constitutionally earmarked to counties, improving County Governments’ capacity to generate their own income, and ensuring that shareable revenue is transferred to counties in a timely and predictable manner. By strengthening Devolution, we give fresh impetus to our aspiration of ensuring that every part of Kenya, including the historically marginalized counties, feel the presence of not only power but resources. I am happy to note that Devolution is now stronger than every and we shall work even harder to uphold its objects.
At this juncture, let me urge our County Governments to adhere to the principles of inclusion and integration of minorities and marginalized groups set out in Section 97 of the County Governments Act. These principles should be at the front and center of governance in our Counties.
The success witnessed in the organization of this event today is another first in the war against discrimination, exclusion and marginalization in Kenya. As a consequence of these celebrations, we shall kick off an intense discourse as we continue to hear from the people and the associations working at the grassroots in order to ensure that everyone in Kenya enjoys equal rights and opportunities.
Fellow countrymen and women…
The event will continue to promote a shared understanding of the constitutional values that underpin the nation’s commitment to inclusivity, fostering a sense of duty and responsibility among citizens. We must therefore unite among all public institutions in both national and County Governments, with various partners in the corporate world, trade unions, non-Governmental bodies, civil society and international partners to continue the conversation aimed at advancing the welfare of minorities and the marginalized.
It is for this reason that I have today gazetted a Taskforce that will undertake a comprehensive review of all government policies, programmes, actions and omissions both present and past; advise on how they have affected the minority and marginalized communities and recommend appropriate steps aimed at prospering the promoting and protecting them.
I expect that this taskforce shall come up with various recommendations including the policy, legal and institutional frameworks necessary to drive the affirmative action programmes targeted at promoting and protecting the rights of Minorities and Marginalized Communities. These recommendations shall form the cornerstone of the delivery of Kenya Kwanza’s commitment to legislate an affirmative action framework to implement Article 56 of the Constitution.
Indeed, we meant it when we spoke about building a “Kenya ya Usawa” where every citizen will feel that they belong.
I am pleased to announce that the marking of the International Minority Rights Day shall henceforth be an annual event. It will be an occasion to critically think about our successes, shortcomings, to cherish our diversity and how different backgrounds contribute to our national unity, because out of many we are one.
Since we may not meet again this year, may I now take this opportunity to wish each one of you here present today a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2024. Please pass my Season’s Greetings to your families back home.
God bless you.
God bless this, our land and nation.
The speech was delivered by the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi on behalf of the President. Kenya will henceforth annually observe the Minorities Rights Day on December 18.